Wednesday, 27 April 2016 11:11 Written by

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Eritrea@25: Learning from the Past, Overcoming the Present and Envisioning a Bright Future

A wisdom is like a baobab tree, no one individual can embrace it.

The Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) cordially invites Eritreans and non-Eritreans to take part in the national dialogue on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Eritrean Independence.


Eritrea, as an independent country, is 25 years old. As Eritreans celebrate this milestone, they evidently engage in evaluation whether or not Eritrea has met the aspirations and dreams of its people for a better life worth the sacrifices of its people who paid the ultimate price through their loved ones and everything they had. EMDHR would like to utilize the Silver Jubilee of the Eritrean Independence as an opportunity to reflect and review the progress or lack thereof in the last 25 years. It is an occasion for us as a nation to pause, reflect, and draw lessons from the past for a better present and brighter future. 

Eritrean and non-Eritrean intellectuals of diverse disciplines and experiences are cordially invited to participate in this initiative at which they have the opportunity to share their views, assessments and recommendations on different aspects - namely political, economic, social, cultural as well as environmental - with the wider public. By so doing they would be able to shape constructive public discourse on the basis of objective analysis and present feasible and practical steps towards solutions to the numerous challenges facing our country and its people.

The Initiative is premised on the following general assertions:  

  • Eritrea and its people are faced with great and grave challenges that are critical to their survival and development.
  • There are better options and alternatives that can enable our country to meet the aspirations of its people. 
  • In order to arrive at shared and common alternatives we need to seriously, sincerely and with open-mind dialogue among ourselves. 
  • The role of Eritrean intelligentsia is essential in this respect and there is a huge reservoir of intellectual capital among Eritreans that is yet to be fully harnessed for constructive purposes of shaping public opinion and guiding collective action. 

This initiative thus intends to mobilize and bring together this critical potential to engage and provide an objective perspective on the Eritrean experiences of the last 25 years. We hope that this will encourage not just the Eritrean intellectuals but also the people at large to be active participants in their national discourse and build a nation that caters the needs and meets the aspirations of its citizens. 

Using diverse media, namely Paltalk panel discussions, seminars and media interviews Eritreans scholars and practitioners will have the opportunity to interact with Eritrean public in a highly sober, objective and constructive dialogues on the following and related themes. The public seminars, lectures, and panel discussions will be provided in either Arabic, Tigrigna, or English. Written submissions (in English) that meet the set standards will be considered for a publication on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Eritrean independence. The key themes considered in the initiative include:

Theme 1 - Economic Growth and Development

  1. Economic policy framework(s) 
  2. Natural Resources Governance: Extractive, Land  and Land Tenure 
  3. Public Finance Management - Efficiency and Accountability
  4. Sovereign wealth management
  5. Private Sector and the role of PFDJ Businesses
  6. Sectoral Analysis on: Mining, Agriculture and Marine Resources (Fisheries), Manufacturing and Industrialization, Domestic and Foreign Trade, Infrastructure and Construction, The State of Financial Sector, Tourism, Communication and ICT Development.

Theme 2 - Public Services, Human Development and Humanitarian Situation(taking MDGs as yard sticks)  

  1. Public Service Provision
    1. Policy Frameworks 
    2. Health sector – primary health care and Infect
    3. Education sector – Primary and Tertiary and Higher education.
    4. Food Security and Nutrition 
    5. Water and Sanitation – Provision Quality and Spread 
    6. Energy and Energy Supply (Fuel, Electricity and Rural Electrification).
  2. Human development and Humanitarian Situation
    1. Unemployment and Poverty 
    2. The State of the Eritrean Family
    3. Gender issues and the Rights of the Eritrean Woman
    4. The Eritrean Youth
    5. Migration and Human Trafficking 
    6. Militarization of Society and its implications 
    7. The State of vulnerable groups, eg. Orphans, people with disability, elderly, widows, etc.

Theme 3 - Political Governance, National Security and International Relations

  1. Political Governance 
    1. Rule of law and constitutionalism
    2. Policy making, Institutions, accountability and participation
    3. Human rights and access to Justice
    4. Citizenry, representation, identity and nation-building
    5. The state of civil societies and their role
    6. The state of independent media
    7. The state of the broader Resistance Movement 
  1. National Security
    1. Policy framework and strategy
    2. Actual and potential threats to national security
    3. National Service, its contribution and its consequences
    4. Border wars and conflict with neighbouring countries
  1. Diplomacy, Regional and International Relations and Cooperation
    1. Policy framework and strategy
    2. Bilateral relations with world powers and its consequences
    3. The status of the EEBC decision
    4. Regional integration and cooperation (e.g. IGAD and African Union)
    5. International (Arab League, Red Sea, the UN, etc.)

Theme 4 - Culture, Cultural Values and Heritage

  1. Policy framework and strategy
  2. Custom and tradition
  3. Historical and archeological heritage 
  4. Religion and religious institutions
  5. Language and the linguistic development
  6. Traditional and modern Arts

Theme 5 - Environment and Climate

  1. Policy frameworks and strategy
  2. The state of ecology in Eritrea
  3. Climate change and its consequences - climate adaptation.

Time Frame

The Initiative will run from May 2016 to May 2017

We hope that many will take this opportunity to participate in the series of debates and encourage others to join. Participants are free to choose any of the above themes or other themes that are relevant to Eritrea in the context of the last 25 years. Send your expression of interest to Dr. Adane G.Meskel

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Eritrea25 years 4







 "I see a light at the end of the tunnel"

         My own expectation


When I have read the press release of the Ad- Hoc Contact Organ of the Consulative meetings in Addis Abeba, I was really surprised and inspired by the initial agreements reached between those who did not participate in Nairobi to participate in the coming all- inclusive consulative meeting that will be held in the coming August 2016. I also appreciate the empathy shown by the six political organizations, by empathy , I mean stepping in the other parties shoes seeing the conflict issues not only through their eyes but through the eyes of others. Empathy does not mean you have accepted all what the others say but help you to use reasonable causes of action to diffuse conflict situation and move towards the right direction. The statement reminded me that we have our Cyril Mamphosa( ANC) and Roelf Meyer( Apartheid) skills of negotiating that can end the dictatorship and pave the road map towards democratic transition in our land Eritrea.


In this article of appreciation, I would like to focus on the three points stated in the press release of the AD- Hoc Contact Organ.


- A Unifying stategic Vision

- Agreement on the methods of ending dictatorship in Eritrea

- Clear Transtional Map or Roadmap


Referring the previous studies and experiences of the Eritrean and international analysis.


1. What is a unifying strategic vision?

The Eritrean internal conflict is a deep rooted conflict based on identity elements (religion, language, culture and region) these elements are components of our national identity but they have been misued by political elites/political entrepreneurs to divide and create political cleavages during the political and armed struggle and now at this time of struggle from dictatorship to democracy.


A unifying strategic vision can be created by identifying or understanding the situation of each organization feelings and motives. We have today political and civic organizations based on or affiliated by identities not by idealogies, thus religious, ethnic and regional political and civic organizations. A unifying strategic vision can be created and maintained by pursuing the process of participation and inclusiveness. There are two routes. The first route is the process of trust building and sustaining good professional relations with all forces for democratic change. The second route is creating commitment to the common programme by identifying what will be gained- we all gain by removing the dictatorship in Eritrea.


The Ad- Hoc Contact Organ in consultation with all parties must formulate the key strategic issues of the Opposition Forces. As they have mentioned in their press release their formulation of the unifying strategic vision will be based on the information and analysis derived from the previous studies. ( Historical analysis of the Eritrean unifying strategic vision- its success and failures) With this in mind, I would like to share my experience with the Contact Organ in the formulation of the unifying strategic vision by taking well-informed, realistic and relatively detailed strategies that must be formulated by involving all actors in the opposition organizations. I think before unifying the opposition forces we need to idnetify the strategic issues facing us in the opposition camp. In this way it will be clear to any person who reads each strategy what the problem is, what solution has been proposed, how the proposed solution will successfully address the problem and why this solution is better than the previous.( see the experience of building partnership in the ENA, ENCDC..........etc)


When the individaul strategies are formulated, then, the Ad-Hoc Contact Organ's task is to formulate the overall unifying strategy of vision based on the individual strategies. What are the main themes of this overall strategy? Have the opposition a common denominator? How can this common denominator best be framed so that it is clear to all stakeholders and this sparks to new commitments to make the desired change happen. I hope the Ad-Hoc Contact Organ take a flexible approach to get the support of all forces in the opposition camp.


2. Agreement on the methods of ending dictatorship in Eritrea

What we have seen in the past 15 years struggle from dictatorship to democracy, the problem was not on the planning of the strategy but on implementation. After formulating the unifying strategic plan, the Sd-Hoc Contact Organ must prepare to give the plan life. ( towards implementation and evaluation) Here , I mean, specific and detailed list should be made for each plan, stating goals, activities and outcomes and the resources required ( funds, people,technology must be organized to succeed in the given plan of work. I think in the past 15 years we lacked resources to implement our unifying strategy of vision. The Eritrean Opposition forces have been arguing the methods simply by saying or mentioning, " Violence or non-violence , or, all means or reform have consumed our time and scanty resources. I think, the Ad-Hoc Contact Organ focuses on the process of implementation and evaluation of the plan periodically.( See more on recent academic researches)


If we once complete the process of implementation and evaluation every time after each project by doing so we create a culture of work process that can give us the opportunity not only to think, plan and act but also learn strategically. Our previous  methods of unifying were not strategical but tactical and diversional inherited from the philsophy of zero-sum games. Let us now change the mindset and move towards building trust and work together to liberate our people from the brutality of one man rule.


3. Clear Transtional Per[fes1]iod

Transitional period is the time between or from the fall of dictatorship to building constitutional government. This period is very complicated and full of contradictions.,We have seen the recent Arab Spring Mass Movements results in their transition after the fall of dictators. Looking from the different transitions in Africa and Latin America most of them failed to succeed in their transition from dictatorship to democracy. In the past 15 years, the ENA- Eritrean Democratic Alliance has defined and chartered how the transitional period be framed and later the ENCDC har developed it more and framed it in its document, the EPDP has also proposed the transitional period and is available in the EPDP's website. As the Ad-Hoc Contact Organ mentioned in their statements that we have enough internal and external documents dealing on the transitional period. I think this approach will foster inclusiveness and prevent personal conflicts and tensions among political and civic organizations.




By Max Bearak

In Eritrea, your last year of high school is also your first year in the army. The nation fought a 30-year war against its much larger neighbor Ethiopia, and because of a continuing land dispute, still considers hostilities active. Although obligatory conscription isn’t exactly unusual around the world, in Eritrea, there are three huge downsides: Your service is indefinite, you’re not allowed to leave the country, and the pay is dismal — about $10 on the black market.

The rest of the world doesn’t really hear much about the country, as the foreign press is mostly barred from entry, and Eritrea ranks dead last in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index (behind North Korea). But last week, unconfirmed reports began filtering through the crevices of the Internet about the possible killing of conscripts who attempted escape while being transported to a labor camp.

The most complete report describes a scene of utter chaos and desperation. Its version of the carnage goes like this: As a truck full of conscripts passed through the capital city of Asmara, two jumped out and were immediately shot by guards in the truck. Then, just down the road, a more planned breakaway happened. Some conscripts had apparently alerted their family members in Asmara that they were being transported across the country, and asked them to wait at a major intersection so that they could jump out of the truck and be quickly whisked away. Family members commandeered a city bus to block the road, but as the conscripts left the truck, they and their families were sprayed indiscriminately with bullets.

The numbers of dead and injured vary in the reports, ranging from four to 29. The tight-lipped Eritrean government indirectly acknowledged the incident in a tweet from its information minister, who claimed that it was an accident, and that two conscripts had fallen off the truck.
If the story is true, it offers a glimpse into the terrifying system of conscription and forced labor in Eritrea, and the lengths people are willing to go to escape it. The United Nations estimates that 5,000 Eritreans leave their country every month as refugees. The Wall Street Journal recently referred to Eritrea as one of the “world’s fastest emptying nations.” Many of them are young men, and researchers on the ground have noted that the ages of Eritrean refugees have gotten progressively younger, floating the idea that they are leaving prior to conscription. Ten Eritrean soccer players refused to get on a flight back to Eritrea after a tournament in Botswana in October, two years after another group did the same in Uganda and was granted asylum.

Last year, WorldViews reported on a U.N.-led inquiry of human rights violations in Eritrea. My colleague Adam Taylor summarized some of the findings:

“The system leads to arbitrary arrests and detention, with torture and even enforced disappearances a part of life in Eritrea, the U.N. probe found, and even those who commit no perceived crime often end up in arduous and indefinite national service that may amount to forced labor. Escape is not a realistic option for many: Those who attempt to flee the country are considered ‘traitors,’ and there is a shoot-to-kill policy on the border, the report said.”

In the first eight months of 2015, more than 30,000 Eritreans used the central Mediterranean smuggling route from Libya to Italy — more than any other group — and it is presumed that many if not most of the approximately 2,700 of those who drowned during the journey were Eritrean.
Beyond conscription, the country is one of the least developed in the world, with an abysmal Human Development Index rating, and is suffering through a prolonged drought. The country has no constitution, no court system, no elections and no free press.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) gives prima facie designations to Eritrean asylum-seekers, which means they are presumed to have good reason. Eritrea says the United Nations is mistaking conscription for forced labor, and accuses the organization of fueling the exodus from the country. As refugees have begun to weigh heavily on European countries, and public opinion has shifted against open-door policies, some nations, such as Denmark, have imposed greater restrictions on Eritreans, citing fact-finding reports that say human rights violations in Eritrea are not as bad as previously thought.

The surge in Eritrean refugees in the past two years also raises the possibility that the Eritrean government is less and less able, or inclined, to stem the flow of those leaving. Refugees send back remittances that provide Eritrea with hard cash, and allowing them to leave might provide a safety valve to give the disaffected a way out that doesn’t involve fighting the government.


Why people are leaving Eritrea

Friday, 15 April 2016 21:11 Written by


Every month as many as 5,000 people flee Eritrea, a country ruled by an authoritarian regime in which human rights violations are widespread. Oliver Ramme has just returned from a rare visit to the African nation.

Sudan: Kassala refugee camp

Eritrean asylum seekers at a refugee camp in Kassala State, eastern Sudan


Tokombia is a village lying some 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the Eritrean capital, Asmara. Dogs bark as the scorching sun beats down on the mud huts. The soil is arid, almost desert-like. The village is underdeveloped, like many places in Eritrea. The Ethiopian border is not that far away.

"It is quiet along the border. Not much happens. We don't want any trouble with the Ethiopians," says Tesfalem Andom, the village elder. He is a member of the ruling party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). It is the only party in Eritrea and is neither democratic, nor does it uphold justice. The PFDJ has ruled the country since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Eritrea does not have a constitution, or a free press.

But Eritrea owes its notoriety largely to its national service, nominally 18 months of compulsory military service for young men which is often extended indefinitely at the whim of military commanders. National service is the main reason why young Eritreans flee their country. When asked about their fate, Tesfalem Andom replies evasively:

"It's normal for people to come and go. They go in groups to Ethiopia only to discover that life isn't that easy in a refugee camp. Running away seems to be some sort of 'kick' for young people, a 'craze' of sorts," he said.

DW map show Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea

Eritrea separated from Ethiopia in 1991 after a 20-year independence war. Their common border remains tense

Thousands succumb to the supposed 'craze' every month, leaving Eritrea by crossing the border into Ethiopia or Sudan. Fleeing Eritrea is dangerous, because a border conflict with Ethiopia is still smoldering.

In Asmara, Abraham and John agree to talk in a car. Those are not their real names as it is forbidden to criticize the government in Eritrea. With loud music in the background, they tell their stories. "I am not proud of working in an illegal occupation," says John. "I would prefer to have a normal job in which I receive some sort of recognition, but I have to have something to live on." John deals in foreign currency, illegally. Such trading is prohibited in Ethiopia. If he were to be caught, he would land in jail.

No future for the youth

Abraham and John have both been to university. But there are hardly any jobs in Eritrea's tiny private sector and wages and salaries in the numerous state-owned enterprises are low. "Twenty five years after independence, the country is moving backwards," says Abraham, "in healthcare, education and production."

Eritrea Asmara Poster Präsident Afewerki

The face of Eritrean President Issaias Afewerki looks down from a shop window in Asmara.

The cost of living is high in Eritrea. A liter of sunflower oil costs 5 euros ($ 5.60). A pound (half a kilo) of noodles costs about the same. A liter of petrol costs about 3 euros. The monthly wages paid to the hundreds of thousands of conscripts range between 50 and 100 euros.

The frustration this economic deprivation causes as well as the fear of the state and its prisons can be sensed wherever you go in Eritrea.

Help from outside

Yemane Gebreab is the personal advisor to President Isaias Afwerki and is regarded as the second most powerful person in the country. Gebreab speaks precisely and softly, in a manner slightly reminiscent of an old-fashioned accountant. Eritrea, he maintains, is simply misunderstood by the international community.

"I go all over the world and people who don't know what Eritrea is, where Eritrea is, the first thing they ask you is national service. I say how can national service in a very small country become a topic of global conversation?," he said. Gebreab blames the United States for Eritrea's political isolation.

Peter Schwidtal runs a small German NGO, Archemed, dedicated to improving the healthcare infrastructure in Eritrea. It is one of the few aid projects in Eritrea. Despite all his idealism, the German medical practitioner admits that he is forced to face up to the reality of life in Eritrea. That includes the exodus of the young and the skilled.

"It can be very hard when after having trained up a surgeon or a pediatrician, you suddenly discover that person is no longer there. It's huge loss because there are so few trained medical personnel in the country."

He also said that when they take ambitious, young colleagues to Germany for training, there is the risk that they will not return to Eritrea.

John and Abraham are also thinking about escaping. They are undeterred by television footage showing European nations erecting border fences.


NO: 000102

The Ad Hoc Contact Organ of the Nairobi’s National Consultative Conference held its meeting in Addis Ababa from April 1-3, 2016. The Chairman and the members of the committee presented their reports for the last three months, and then embarked on an objective assessment of their performance. The chairman concluded that the overall work of the committee was productive, and attributed its success to the strong support it gained from the organizations that participated in the Nairobi meeting and the Eritrean public in general. In its evaluation of the phase that followed the Nairobi meeting, the Contact Organ noted some confusion in the understanding of the aims and objectives of the Forum For National Dialogue (Medrekh) by some sides, perhaps, because of the seemingly similar path the National Council, like the Forum, is making preparations for its second Conference, or other reasons. Accordingly, the Contact Organ deemed it necessary to reassure the following:

  1. The National Consultative Conference of Nairobi was a consultative meeting of the various political organizations and parties to reach a common political understanding on the present Eritrean affairs and a vision for the future.
  2. The mission of the Ad Hoc Contact Organ, in accordance with the tasks it was entrusted, is to strive in involving all political forces, those who participated, as well as those who did not participate in the Nairobi Consultative Meeting, in the upcoming second consultative meeting, and not a replacement (displacement) of the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change or the Democratic Alliance or any other political arrangement. Therefore, the Nairobi Forum does not interfere or contradict with the preparation of the second National Conference of the National Council of Eritrea.

Based on its unanimous assessment, the Ad Hoc Contact Organ put forward its provisional programme of work that covers the period from the end of the meeting (April 3) and the second half of the month of August, when the second consultation meeting will be held. Towards this, it has decided, to initiate the preparation of working papers, which will set the agenda for discussion of the next consultative meeting, namely: a unifying strategic vision for the opposition, an agreement on the means to topple the dictatorial regime, drafting a vision for the transitional period utilizing all existing documents of the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change, the Eritrean Democratic Alliance, Eritrean Peoples’ Democratic Party and other opposition forces, as well as the findings of a committee of Eritrean experts who will conduct Root Cause Analysis of the Eritrean opposition by taking into account all previous experiences.

During the time of its meeting, the Ad Hoc Contact Organ held important meetings with the different political forces, in order to update relevant parties of the activities it has undertaken since its formation, pursuant to the responsibilities it was entrusted by the National Consultative Meeting held in Nairobi. The first meeting was to brief the representatives of the organizations, which participated in the Nairobi Forum, of the achievements that have been made and the circumstances in which the overall activities were put into effect. The representatives of the organizations have reconfirmed their support for the mission of the Ad Hoc Contact Organ. Medrekh and members of the Contact Organ also met with representatives of the six organizations and the Democratic Organization of the Afar Red Sea, which, for various reasons, did not participate in the Nairobi forum, but after a fruitful engagement in which they stressed the importance of inclusiveness, they have decided to welcome the initiative and participate in the upcoming meeting.  

At the end of the meeting the Ad Hoc Contact Organ expressed its thanks and appreciation to everyone who supported and contributed, in thought and wishes, in furthering the objectives of the consultative forum among all the political forces, and especially thanked those who contributed to the success of this meeting.

The Ad Hoc Contact Organ

National Consultative Conference--Nairobi Declaration

April 4, 2016

On April 10, 2016 North America (USA & Canada) EPDP Zoba Leadership hosted all–members teleconference meeting. This is the first conference of this magnitude after its election in December 2015.

The meeting was attended by overwhelming majority of members. The Zoba chairman haw Kalaab Kifleghiorghis lead the meeting and the main agendas were the following:

·         Zoba leadership’s progress report

·         Zoba’s departments responsibilities and tasks

·         Branch responsibilities and activities

·         Members expectation and suggestions to zoba

The Chairman discussed the agenda points in depth and detail. Each zoba office leaders also briefly present their tasks and responsibilities. Lengthy questions and answers session was given and covered all topics. Zoba members expressed their satisfaction with the performance of Zoba Leadership and pledge to collaborate to their ability to achieve the objectives. 

Since its election, the Zoba Leadership have engaged in meetings with branch leadership and outlined action plan for the next six months which includes zoba congress. The meeting ended with high spirit of respect and civility.

As the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea continue to research and work diligently in regards to the Human Rights issues in Eritrea; we Eritreans residing in North America, will continue to support the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea in 2016, just as we successfully did last year in October 2015. In order to continue to support all efforts made by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. It is important for all political and civic organizations in North America to play a role in mobilizing for COIE 2016. We are calling for all political and civic organizations in North America, to elect representatives, to assist in mobilizing and organizing, all efforts for the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea 2016. The united effort created and executed "FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE" for the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea 2015, will be equally needed to ensure the success and final outcome for the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea in 2016. 


To forward representatives and for all questions and concerns please email 

Sincerly; ENA4COI


Eritreans in North America for Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea


Best Regards,


Eritreans in North America United

in Support of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry


Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.[1]

Recently I had a chance to read Paulo Freire's classical work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which mainly deals with Oppressor-Oppressed relationship. To larger extent, I found Freire’s work mirrored in present day Eritrea. In his work, Freire addressed the engagement between the oppressor and the oppressed and the means used to that end. Here I have tried to relate a fraction of his work to the Eritrean context.

While reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed I was contemplating on the difficulty through which the Eritrean people are passing through. We all are aware that in their struggle to become free subjects and build a democratic country, Eritreans fought long and hard. Their long suffering came to an end when the protracted and bitter thirty years of armed struggle concluded in triumph, independence of Eritrea. Never in their dreams would Eritreans imagined that a government in an independent Eritrea will be so oppressive like the one that we are witnessing at the moment. A quarter a century after independence they have to accept the bitter truth that their once hailed revolutionary leaders, on whom they have full trust, failed them and turned to be their oppressors.

Changing Poles

According to Freire it is habitual for the oppressed to wage a struggle to resolve the contradiction in which they are caught. The Oppressor-Oppressed contradiction will be resolved by the emergence of a new man: neither oppressor nor oppressed but man in the process of liberation.[2] Likewise, while under Ethiopian occupation and domination, Eritreans felt oppressed and opted to struggle to restore their freedom. The Eritrean struggle for independence was a palpable expression of this phenomenon. The aim of independence should not be replicating former oppressors; rather it ought be redressing past wounds and building a democratic country. In Eritrean case we missed the emergence of the new man.

Freire insisted that if the aim of the oppressed is to become fully human, they will not achieve their goal by merely reversing the terms of the contradiction, by simply changing poles. …the moment the new regime hardens into a dominating 'bureaucracy' the humanist dimension of the struggle is lost and it is no longer possible to speak of liberation. The authentic solution of the oppressor-oppressed contradiction does not lie in a mere reversal of position, in moving from one pole to the other. Nor does it lie in the replacement of the former oppressors with new ones who continue to subjugate the oppressed - all in the name of their liberation.[3] This is what the Eritrean experience demonstrates, a situation in which former leaders of liberation struggle – side-lining promises of the revolution - turned into current oppressors. They simply, as Freire put it, change poles - from being formerly oppressed into current oppressors. Hence the humanist dimension of the Eritrean struggle is completely lost.

It is habitual that in their unrestrained eagerness to dominate and control the people, oppressors become anti-dialogical and developed the conviction that it is possible for them to transform the society into obedient citizens or objects. In doing so they have to conquer and manipulate them. Let’s briefly look how Conquest and Manipulation employed in Eritrea to the end of controlling people.


One of the attribute of anti-dialogical action is the necessity for conquest. Freire highlighted that, in dealing with the people, the anti-dialogical oppressor endeavours at conquering them by every means, from the toughest to the most refined, from the most repressive to the most solicitous. The conqueror imposes his objectives on the vanquished, and makes of them his possession. Anti-dialogue is necessary to the oppressor as a means of further oppression - not only economic, but cultural: the vanquished are dispossessed of their word, their expressiveness, their culture. Further, once a situation of oppression has been initiated, anti-dialogue becomes indispensable to its preservation.[4] This is the main characteristics of the Eritrean government, headed by the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) – the sole legal party in Eritrea. Since its inception, it is anti-dialogical and used whatsoever method suitable to it to subjugate the people. Today, Eritrea is a country with no constitution, no parliament, no independent judicial system; and Eritreans have no right to express themselves, no right to vote, and no right to live a peaceful life in their own country. Every aspect of their life is under the strict scrutiny of the government. As key part of its conquest, the government monopolized the economy and created total dependency of the people on the regime. It is ironic Eritreans cannot get basic needs such as food and shelter and work freely if they are reluctant to abide by the oppressive rules of the government. The infamous and abusive National Service also used to control and dominate the Eritrean youth. Further showing its anti-dialogical nature the government always insists to the people - through its monopolized "mass media" - that all they have to do is carefully listen to the 'wise' guidelines of their 'visionary' government and act accordingly, making them mere objects, dispossessing their expressiveness and denying their own decision making.

This total conquest approach of the government serves the ends of control and obedience. In this phenomenon, the government imposed its own view of the world upon the people by curbing their expression and denying the right to have a say in their day-to-day life. It made every effort to mould the society to immerse the government's view point. As it is anti-dialogical the government always made a choice and the people are always expected to follow that choice.

In its conquest the government used every means, but habitually coercion. Hence, throughout the independence years many are arbitrarily killed, thousands are jailed, and hundreds of thousands fled the country. In such a way the government compelled Eritreans to develop a culture of silence and total obedience. Eritreans, as the UN commission of inquiry put it, are ruled by fear not by law. This was a direct result of the whole situation of economic, social and political dominance and conquest by the regime.


Manipulation, as another dimension of the theory of anti-dialogical action, is an instrument of conquest. Freire explains that by means of manipulation, the dominant elites try to conform the masses to their objectives. And the greater the political immaturity of these people (rural or urban) the more easily they can be manipulated by those who do not wish to lose their power. Furthermore, the oppressed are manipulated by series of myths.[5]

Alongside coercion, manipulation is one way of controlling mechanism in Eritrea. Eritreans are frequently advised that they are under constant attack from the ‘unjust’ world and should remain resolute and be vigilant to Western ‘conspiracy’ against their country. The government’s monotonous rhetoric is that the country is continually in danger and the people have always to endure their suffering which, according to it, is emanated from the ‘hostile’ neighbouring countries and international community. The people are told that their suffering and predicament is not the direct result of local oppression and failed government policies but effect of Western plotting against their nation. It is the habit of the Eritrean government that for every failure, it has to blame neighbouring countries and the United States.

Moreover, Eritreans are softened by dreamy promises that their country's economy is boosting with the mining boom and the country have promising economic prospects. All they have expected to do is just believe. Year in year out they are tired of listening to the government’s intangible and broken promises.

Freire further elaborates: manipulation, like the conquest whose objectives it serves, also attempts to anesthetize the people so they will not think. For if the people engaged in a process of critical thinking they become aware of things and that is considered by oppressive elites as a real threat to their dominance. The dominant elites are so well aware of this fact that they instinctively use all means, including physical violence, to keep the people from thinking.[6] Through its coercive measures, the Eritrean regime made critical awareness and response to government policies and actions an impossible. This is done in Eritrea in several ways, from closing the country's sole university [which was accused of producing ‘non-obedient’ and ‘sub nationalist’ students] to jailing senior leaders, journalists and critical citizens; to banning free press and freedom of expression; to imposing tight restriction on access to internet; to jamming opposition parties’ media outlets and other methods alike. According to the Eritrean government Eritreans need not to think but listen to the ‘noble’ words of their 'provident' government.

It is therefore evident to conclude that Conquest and Manipulation, as key components of an anti-dialogical action, are well exhibited in Eritrea and effectively utilized by the Eritrean regime as mechanisms of oppression.

Finally, it is worthy to remember that the aim of our struggle for independence was neither for conquest nor for manipulation. A liberation that lacks our reflective participation is turning us into objects, dehumanizes us and hindered our just cause of becoming free citizens. As individuals and as people, we need to strive for the restoration of our humanity and the restoration of our freedom. In our quarter a century suffering under PFDJ’s authoritarian rule, we have enough experience to understand the effects of oppression and the need for a genuine freedom. But we will not gain this freedom by chance but through our quest for it, through our recognition of the necessity to fight for it. We must also believe that freedom is acquired by conquest and not by gift. Hence, we should pursue it relentlessly, responsibly and win it back from the regime that conquered our lives and threatened our existence as a nation. It only by doing so we restore to our oppressors the humanity they had lost in oppressing us. As an oppressive group they can free neither us nor themselves.


[1]Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos, (New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, 2005), p. 85.

[2]Freire, p. 56.

[3]Freire, pp. 56-57.

[4]Freire, p. 138.

[5]Freire, p. 147.

[6]Freire, p. 149.

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EMDHR Press Release


On 03 April 2016 about at least 11 Eritreans were massacred by the Eritrean regime in the capital Asmara. The Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) condemns this yet another heinous act against defenceless children and their mothers. These innocent Eritreans have lost the most sacred right- the right to life. Indeed, this vicious act confirms the findings of the UN Human Rights Inquiry Commission findings of crimes against humanity committed by the ruling regime. The slaughter was committed in broad day light when truck loads of conscripts were being transported through the capital, Asmara, where some of them started to jump off their trucks when security forces began shooting live ammunition killing 11 people including women and children bystanders, and injuring over two dozens which may increase the death toll. The young conscripts were being taken from military training in the West of the country to forced labour camps in Eastern Eritrea. They were trying run away from the slavery like conditions which have become synonymous with Eritrea today. The Eritrean regime routinely executes military conscripts who either abscond or attempt to flee the country with impunity. What is different this time is that it happened in the capital and in public before the eyes of their loved ones who were waiting to see a glimpse of them and waive hello on the side of the streets before their little hopes turned into a nightmare. It is time for the international community to act in defence of the fundamental values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and hold the Eritrean regime accountable for the crimes against humanity it continues to commit.


Eritrea is a country ruled by fear and not by law, and is often referred as the ‘African North Korea’. It has no constitution, no parliament, no judiciary, and all forms of freedoms and rights are banned and denied. Citizens are often arbitrarily arrested, disappeared, tortured, and even extrajudicially executed. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea confirmed in 2015 the “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations” in the country. The Eritrean youth are at the receiving end of the regime’s ruthlessness and brutality. Today the youth are wasting their potential and talents in a forced and indefinite military conscription and doing forced labour under degrading conditions. Eritrea has become a country where even high school students are taken into a military training camp and forced labour programs. As a result these appalling conditions and denied of their rights in their own country, Eritrean youth are fleeing in mass risking their lives in search of refuge and hoping to reconstruct their lives in exile. 



09 April 2016

Pretoria, South Africa




General Filipos

General Filipos, Army chief of staff


I have received details of the tragic events of last Sunday, when National Service conscripts were shot in cold blood in Asmara. They were attempting to escape from trucks taking them to the port of Assab.

The information is from inside Eritrea


On 03 April 2016  conscripts who jumped from vehicles were shot at in cold blood in front of many people. As a result, some died, some were wounded from the shooting and others were injured when they jumped from the vehicles.

A total of 29 conscripts were killed or injured.

Six were killed on the spot and eighteen were taken to hospital. Five of those in Halibet hospital have since died of their injuries. The remainder are under under heavy guard.

Reliable sources reveal that some of those still in hospital are in a critical condition. The numbers of fatalities may rise.

These are the names of some of the 18 wounded in hostpital:
1) Dawit Mickael
2) Abraham Fessehaye
3) Habtom Girmay
4) Mehanie Gebremedhin
5) Biniyam Zeray
6) Yonas Teame
7) Seare Welday
8) Yonatan Andemeskel
9) Basiliyos Zemhiret
10) Samuel Tekie

The other names are presently unknown.

We have all the names of the dead, however since not all the families have been informed the names of most are being withheld. However we will disclose 2 of the youth who died in hospital as their families have been told and have begun mourning.

1) Che’ay Haabtesilasie Gebremeskel the son of Mr Habtesilasie Gebremeskel who resides in Adi Guadad and works in a textile factory.
2) Yafiet Fessehaye Mengesha the son of Mr Fessehaye Mengesha who is from Mai Temenai Asmara and works in the transport industry.

These two deceased that we have listed were not part of the group who were rounded and taken to Barka for military service. When the incident took place they were just at the wrong time and wrong place and due to their heavy wounds, they died in hospital.